A paper published by one of the most prestigious foreign policy institutes in the United States says Washington and its international partners should shift Zimbabwe policy to make ready for - and perhaps hasten - the departure of President Robert Mugabe.
The paper from the Council on Foreign Relations in New York says U.S. policy should focus on “sound recovery and reconstruction planning” and plan to avert or minimize chaos in a political transition which, under worst-case scenarios, could include civil strife, state collapse and destabilization of the Southern African region.
U.S. policy towards Zimbabwe has been to pressure the Mugabe government through travel and financial sanctions targeting senior officials, while providing food aid and assistance battling the HIV/AIDS pandemic that has decimated the population.
Author Michelle Gavin, an international affairs fellow at the Council, suggests Washington and the international community could galvanize key Zimbabwean players into action by making clear the benefits including major donor funding that would be released on the institution of reforms, potentially speeding Mr. Mugabe’s exit.
U.S. officials should recognize that they "probably cannot compel President Mugabe and his loyalists to step aside." But, "engaging with other members of the international community now to map out a path for Zimbabwe's recovery is more than an exercise in advance planning," Gavin argues.
"By working multilaterally to build consensus around governance-related conditions for reengagement, and by marshaling significant reconstruction resources in an international trust fund for Zimbabwe, the United States can help establish clear incentives for potential successors to Mugabe to embrace vital reform."
In doing so, "the United States can encourage and even hasten constructive forms of potential political change by affecting the calculus of those who are in a position to trigger a transition," writes Gavin. She adds that recovery and reconstruction planning can also help avert "worst-case scenarios of civil conflict, state collapse, and regional destabilization from taking hold during any future attempted political transition."
The report, entitled "Planning for Post-Mugabe Zimbabwe," highlights agriculture, the country's compromised security forces and youth as needing special attention.
Reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe sought perspective on Gavin's proposals from journalist and Zimbabwe expert Andrew Meldrum, now a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Gavin was not immediately available to expand on her policy prescription.
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